Court orders Opuni’s bank accounts unfrozen

Dr. Opuni

Dr. Opuni

The Supreme Court (SC), has ordered the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to unfreeze two bank accounts of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), accused of causing GH¢217 million loss to the state in a fertiliser deal.

 

The court, presided by Justice Jones Dotse, further directed that only GH¢25,000 said to be paid into Dr. Opuni’s account by businessman, Seidu Agongo, should remain frozen.

 

Justice Dotse said “the laws of Ghana must not be applied arbitrarily”.

 

Reacting to the ruling, Dr. Opuni, in his usual blue suit over a pair of black shoes to match, told journalist that: “I leave everything in the hands of God”.

 

Dr. Opuni, who filed a motion to invoke the supervisory jurisdiction of the apex court, asked the five member panel of the court to quash the ruling of Financial Division of the High Court on April 24 and May 21, 2018, which gave EOCO the power to freeze the applicant’s accounts at Ecobank and Standard Chartered Bank, respectively.

 

His lawyer, Mr. Samuel Codjoe, told the court that the High Court judge breached articles 18 and 23 of the 1992 Constitution and the audi ultra pattem rule (principle of natural justice) which stipulates the right of persons to be heard.

 

He also said the High Court committed “an egregious error” because it lacked the jurisdiction to rule on the case, adding that apart from the GH¢25,000, being the subject of allegation, EOCO could not state any reason for freezing Dr. Opnui’s account.

 

 

In opposing the application, Mrs. Jacquiline Avotri, counsel for EOCO, said the judge did not act in excess of jurisdiction, and that the rules of natural justice has not been breached.

 

She said applicant could apply to court pursuant to section 35(5) of Act 804 if he needed to withdraw money from his account.

 

When Justice Dotse asked if EOCO satisfied statutory conditions in freezing Dr. Opuni’s account, she responded in the affirmative.

 

It is recalled that an Accra High Court on April 24, 2018, ordered EOCO to defreeze Dr Opuni’s two bank accounts with the Standard Chartered Bank Limited and Ecobank Ghana Limited.

This was after his lawyers had filed a motion asking the court to order the anti-graft body to defreeze his accounts.

But EOCO, on the same day, filed another motion and urged the court to once again freeze the two accounts as a result of some new developments.

The court granted the application to “prevent Dr. Opuni from rendering the outcome of the trial nugatory and to prevent the funds in the stated accounts of respondent (Dr. Opuni) from being dissipated.”

On May 23, 2018, Dr Opuni went back to court to seek an order for EOCO to defreeze the accounts, saying it was a breach of natural justice for his accounts to be frozen when it did not oppose to its application to defreeze them.

He said the continuous freezing of his accounts had caused and continued to cause him and his family extreme hardship, as he had not been able to access funds from his accounts.

 

In refusing the application, the presiding judge, Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, said although EOCO did not follow due process in freezing the accounts, it’s the duty of the anti-crime body to protect state funds.
 

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

 

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